Innovation process

Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward

The RFI Innovation Process is a map for orientation on your innovation journey. From identifying a problem to broad application of a new idea, the innovation process guides you through.

As meta-process, as we consider it, it unfolds integral processes, like design thinking modeling or lean startup and supporting processes such as the idea generation process.

Elements of the innovation process

The starting point is being aware of a problem or opportunity. That means, the process kicks off with a precise challenge analysis through problem framing and problem prioritisation. Subsequently, the focus switches to developing solution ideas and validating their feasibility. Concept validation concludes with the quality gate “problem & solution fit.” 

Designing a business model is required to document the economic feasibility and to convince either external investors or management of the innovation project’s benefits. This phase includes a detailed preparation of the market, a customer analysis, and initial development work. It, as well, concludes with a quality gate, the “vision & founders fit.”

In case the following marketability test is successful, the innovation passes the quality gate “product & market fit.” Whereas in the previous phase, the focus of marketing activities was primarily on the early adopters, the commercialisation phase calls for broad mass excitement about the innovation.

Additionally, organisational and process-related prerequisites need to be established, to enable growth and to transition the project or the startup to regular operation.

Various definitions of innovation processes

There are many different definitions of the innovation process. They essentially either refer to specific phases, such as business model design, or view the process from different perspectives (startup vs. corporate). 
Furthermore, the shape of the innovation process also signals its history. Initially, linear models like the Stage-Gate model by Robert G. Cooper (1990, McMaster University), dominated corporate innovation centers. Until today, many companies still innovate based on this particular model. 

As of recently, agile development models have begun to affect the shape of the innovation process. This becomes visible through a strong integration of iterative models, such as the lean startup methodology by Eric Ries or the customer development model by Steve Blank. Such iterative models focus on continuous improvement through feedback loops throughout the entire process. Iterations at all stages of the process make it possible to identify adversities or obstacles early on. That way, you either fail early or quickly initiate adaptation measures.

Our take on the innovation process

With the RFI Innovation Process, we integrate and connect different models.

Schumpeter’s definition focuses on the successful establishment of an idea in the market. He deliberately excludes the process of idea generation.

We are convinced, both the problem awareness and the idea itself are two core elements of the innovation process. Meaning, without a challenge or an idea, there is no innovation! Both components are, therefore, an integral part of the RFI Innovation Model.